How To Care For Someone With Multiple Sclerosis

Aug 11, 2016 3 min

If you’re caring for someone with multiple sclerosis, you will need to help with movement and mobility, frequency, and pain relief.

How to care for someone with multiple sclerosis

Caring for someone with multiple sclerosis can be demanding physically, mentally and emotionally. However, with support you can meet the challenges and help your loved one manage the stress and symptoms of the disease.

A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) can be devastating for the individual and frightening for family and friends.

The disease can be unpredictable, so it can be difficult to predict care needs. Your loved one may have dramatic mood swings and may become depressed as they grieve for the life they had planned or anxious about an uncertain future.

With a little help and guidance, you can support your loved one and help them adjust to the physical and emotional challenges ahead.

Movement and mobility

Weakness, muscle tightness, balance disturbance and general fatigue can mean that people with MS can find it difficult to get around.

Make life as easy as possible for your loved one to stay in their own home. Lifts, mobility aids and hand rails can all help.

The Disability Living Foundation is a national charity providing impartial advice, information and training on independent living and the tools you can access to maintain independence.

Bladder care

Damage to the sheath protecting the nerves can affect the function of the bladder, leading to a neurogenic bladder and loss of control.

The bladder may become lazy or overactive, leading to leaking, discomfort and difficulty passing urine.

Continence issues can make your loved one feel uncomfortable and ashamed.Don’t panic, there is help out there.

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Continence services are available across the country with specially trained MS specialist nurse able to offer advice and support for complex continence problems. They may recommend medication or products to ease discomfort and distress.

You can also self-refer to some providers, check out the Bladder and Bowel Foundation for information on services that are local to you.

Pain relief

Individuals with MS may suffer pain that can be debilitating and distressing. A sharp facial pain called trigeminal neuralgia may be triggered by facial movements.

Burning, twitching or cramping leg pain can also be an issue. An unpleasant type of pain that can occur in MS is a type of dyaesthesia called the ‘MS hug”; it is a feeling of burning, tingling or numbness that wraps around the waist.

These altered sensations can be initiated by just light touch or temperature changes.

See the GP or neurologist for regular and top up pain relief, antidepressant medications can be particularly useful for preventing nerve pain.

You can also help ease their discomfort: warm compresses, pressure stockings, loose clothing and carefully watching and identifying triggers can all be useful.

Caring for yourself

Juggling the demands of caring with running a household can leave you physically and emotionally drained.

Many carers feel guilty about taking a break but it is vital that you look after yourself so that are fit to continue caring.

Think of asking for a carer’s assessment to assess the impact the care you’re providing is having on your health, work and wellbeing.

By organising some respite care, you can take time out from the enormous commitment and demands of caregiving.

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This can allow you the time and space to look after your own health and wellbeing, work uninterrupted, socialise or take a holiday.

A helping hand

Specially trained carers, with experience in working with people with complex additional needs can be hired to come into the home and help out.

They can pop in for just a few hours or provide around the clock supervision. Caregivers can assist with everything from lifting, bathing and dressing to mobility and continence issues.

You can work together to share the strain, or you could take the opportunity to rest and recharge your batteries. You should return to caring with more energy and enthusiasm and the relationship with your loved one will be stronger as a result.

Find out more about caring for someone with MS

Dr Jane Gilbert

Jane has over 20 years’ experience as a health writer and TV presenter. Jane writes on a wide variety of clinical and care topics – from explaining the latest studies and research to unpacking conditions and discussing treatment options. Jane holds a MBBS degree from Imperial College, London and spent seven years working in the NHS.

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